‘Criminal’ Power Companies Greater Threat to US Electrical Grid than ‘Unlikely’ Iran Cyberattack

© Sputnik / Kirill Kallinikov / Go to the mediabankRansomware attacks global IT systems
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The claims that Iran is planning a cyberattack against the US in response to the assassination of Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani are based on flimsy evidence, technologists told Sputnik on Monday.

CNBC reported on Monday that hackers from Iran had allegedly compromised the website of the US Federal Depository Library Program Saturday, posting images of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian flag and messages promising revenge against the US for the January 3 killing of Soleimani, the deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The group behind the attack identified themselves as “Iran Cyber Security Group Hackers.”

While the Department of Homeland Security was doubtful about the attacks coming from the Iranian government, the Treasury and other agencies are on heightened guard about the possibility of more serious cyberattacks coming from Iran.

“There have been claims that Iranian-backed hackers have attacked some websites ... and to be honest, it looks pretty flimsy to me - pretty flimsy evidence,” technologist Chris Garaffa told John Kiriakou, host of Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Monday.

“Iran has already stated that the response for military action is military action, and when we consider who the real threat to Iran and to global security is, we have to look at the country that has more than 1,000 military bases all over the world occupying land, and that’s the US,” technology and security analyst Patricia Gorky said.

“The US also has the largest and most formidable military in the world, as the US already admits. And Iran’s military budget, just to put it into perspective, is about $13 billion per year - that was just a couple of years ago, and compare that with the US’ military budget and war budget, which is upwards of $1,000 billion. So, it’s very clear that Iran is working to defend their country against the US’ offensive purposes as seen by the assassination of their military leader, and the US government now claims that they are on high alert for cyber retaliation,” Gorky explained, citing an article by the Financial Times titled “US on high alert for Iran-backed cyber attacks.”

“This is a report that came out in the Financial Times saying that researchers at FireEye, a cybersecurity company, along with the Atlantic Council, which is a NATO-backed think tank, claim that Iran is using fake social media accounts to spread pro-Iran propaganda,” Gorky noted. 

FireEye has also received venture capital funding from the CIA’s investment arm, In-Q-Tel, which said it retains a “strategic relationship” with the cybersecurity firm.

“The US government is lying about the threat of a cyberattack. For one, we know that the CIA, the espionage arm of the US government, has the capability to mimic attacks from any location, and the US is setting the stage for a devastating war with Iran. When they talk about anti-war propaganda, they really mean anti-war information or information that counters the lies put out by the US state apparatus,” Gorky continued. 

“If the US were to be hit with an actual cyberattack, they would use that as a justification to drop a bomb on another country. The truth is, the US has already been engaging in cyberwar against Iran. Ten years ago, the US unleashed a powerful cyberweapon against Iran that targeted its industrial facilities … this highly sophisticated digital weapon attacked the nuclear enrichment facilities where Iran was enriching uranium for peaceful purposes,” Gorky explained.

The Stuxnet virus, which was launched against Iran in 2010, substantially damaged the country’s uranium enrichment centrifuges. US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed that the malware program was cooperatively developed by the US and Israel.

Garaffa told Sputnik that Stuxnet “was the first state-launched computer virus that caused physical damage.”

“If this [damage] had been done by a bomb, it would have been considered an act of war, and it would have obviously been noticed immediately. Stuxnet wasn’t noticed for some time … so Iran, in fact, actually had to start enriching uranium at a slightly higher rate in order to get back on track with its enrichment goals, which then the US used as an excuse to say, ‘Well, now they’re enriching higher than [the] 20% [threshold], they’re going to get closer to bomb-style material,’” he explained. 

“Stuxnet had a limited impact on Iran’s program, but it was a chilling reminder that the US, the CIA, the NSA and also most likely …  the Israeli government had something to do with building Stuxnet,” Garaffa said.

“Since Stuxnet, we have seen other attacks from the US, from Israel on the infrastructure of other countries … attacks like this should be considered war crimes,” Garaffa added.

In 2016, the New York Times revealed that the US had plans for a cyberattack against Iranian air defense and telecommunication systems, as well as key power supply facilities. The plan, dubbed Nitro Zeus, was developed under the administration of US President Barack Obama. More recently, a June 2019 cyberattack by the US hit a database used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to monitor oil tankers and shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, just hours after Iran downed a US spy drone it said had violated Iranian airspace.

“It’s highly unlikely for Iran to respond with a cyberweapon or with cyber retaliation. Iran has made it clear they do not want a war, but they will retaliate. They will defend themselves, they will defend their sovereignty,” Gorky explained, adding that when “it comes to our electrical grid and worrying about it going down, I think the real attention needs to be given to the criminals that are running PG&E [Pacific Gas and Electric] which has forced blackouts on millions of Americans,” Gorky noted.

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